Broadband: The last opportunity for Africa global competitive edge

Africa missed out on key technological advancements which transformed the rest of world and uplifted the welfare of the people in whatwe now dub the industrialized or developed world.Several arguments can be made as to why some nations lag behind and have failed to seize obvious opportunities. Technologies like electricity and good transportation systems which became the beacon of industrialization and the  standard of living to which  citizens in developed countries became accustomed to   are yet to reach more than a quarter of the world’s population.
David Kanamugire
David Kanamugire

Africa missed out on key technological advancements which transformed the rest of world and uplifted the welfare of the people in whatwe now dub the industrialized or developed world.Several arguments can be made as to why some nations lag behind and have failed to seize obvious opportunities.

Technologies like electricity and good transportation systems which became the beacon of industrialization and the  standard of living to which  citizens in developed countries became accustomed to   are yet to reach more than a quarter of the world’s population.

The problem of diffusing these technologies to the global citizen is complex and ranges from:poor national strategic planning, prevailing economic barriers, political will, global cooperation in areas of science and technology, and the nature of the technologies themselves. There lacks a clear coordination mechanism to tap into technologies for the benefit of mankind.

The resources which should be used to develop core national economic competences are often dispensed and spent too late in the game, commonly in the form of aid, that seeks to  address problems that should have been prevented were the righr

Fortunately, today there is a monumental opportunity African countries and other developing nations  should not miss. Broadband technology is our chance to turn things around. It is easier to adopt and promises as much transformational potential as other preceding technologies. On it, hinges the opportunity to unleash individual creative potential and to equip people and businesses with knowledge and skills to address complex development challenges that range from: education, healthcare and business productivity in ways never before imaginable.

However, however, there lacks a coordination mechanism at the global level to leverage such opportunities—Nations, companies and individuals tend to vie for their own self interest without foreseeing the benefits of coordinating the diffusion of these technological advancements on a global scale.

Developing a new global strategy and coordination mechanism for fast tracking  broadband access to the world’s population is what brought together a group of: government officials, industry persons, academics and development leaders in Geneva to constitute what later became the broadband commission for digital development (www.broadbandcommission.org)

Led by Rwandan President, H.E Paul Kagame and Mexican Billionaire and philanthropist, Mr.Carlos Slim Helu, the commission is co-chaired by the International Telecommunications Union Secretary General, Dr. Hamadoun Toure, and head of UNESCO , Ms. Irina Bokova.

The broadband commission brings together the industry, such as Nobel laureate Mohammed Yunus,  Sir Richard Branson , founder of the Virgin Group, John Chambers, Chairman and  CEO of CISCO Systems, Mr. Sunil Mittal, Chairman of Bharti Airtel, Mo Ibrahim , Founder of Mo. Ibrahim Foundation, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Director of Earth Institute at Columbia university and other noted celebrities like musician YoussouN’Dour.

The commission’s aim is to develop strategies, establish sound partnerships and to implement clear and developed strategies.  As a  technology centered on information and communication, it  will determine the future competitiveness of nations and individuals.Broadband is this century’s economic promise. Can Africa afford to be left out of this promise, to only play catch up a century later, or will it level the playing field and join the game on time?

At the invitation of H.E President Paul Kagame, the broadband commission will hold a 2 day meeting on the 8th and 9th of September in Kigali. This conference will engage t with African youth on the broadband challenges and opportunities as well as hold discussions with: African Ministers, CEOs of Telecommunications and Broadband Companies, and Telecoms regulators, to explore strategies which will  acceleratethe deployment and availability of Broadband.  The 89th Kigali Meeting also aims to prepare a Broadband Leadership Summit that will bring together Heads of States and Governments and other pertinent world leaders to Geneva in October, where  inclusion of broadband strategies within national and international development agenda will be discussed and clear implementation commitments presented by these world leaders

The Rwandan Youth and their African counterparts are aligning an array ofinnovative software applications that will be showcased during the Broadband Youth Forum that will take place on 8th September, 2011.

With clear strategies, global commitments and effective coordination, broadband can be available to the world’s billions left behind by other technologies. Broadband in particular offers Africa the opportunity to catch up and overcome perennial barriers to development.

African youth are as endowed with talent as any other and broadband ushers in this rare opportunity for our young people to compete on a level playing field in the new knowledge and information driven economy.

David Kanamugire is the Permanent Secretary in The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology in the Office of the President of Rwanda.

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